Children counselled by ChildLine about suicide triples
Press Releases - 23 March 2009
The number of suicidal children counselled by ChildLine has tripled in the last five years to an average of nearly 60 a week(1) the NSPCC reveals today (23 March 2009).
One in 14 is in immediate danger or needs urgent medical care.
Last year, nearly 3,000 children phoned ChildLine1 because they were feeling suicidal. Some said they had attempted suicide, while others made attempts while on the phone to a counsellor.
Of those children who gave their age, over half were aged 12 to 15 years and one in sixteen was aged 11 years or under.(2)
Head of ChildLine, Sue Minto says: "It is heartbreaking to listen to children talk of wanting to consider suicide. For a suicidal child, ChildLine can literally be a lifeline.
"Suicidal children tell us they feel utterly lonely and helpless and, apart from ChildLine, nobody seems to care whether they live or die. Our counsellors are trained to deal with suicide calls so they can assess the danger and how best to help.
"For some children, saying they want to take their own lives themselves is a cry for help, while others see it as the only way to escape their problems. While many callers will not actually attempt suicide we treat every call as extremely serious.
"Children feel suicidal for complex and different reasons, but often say they have a history of abuse, neglect, family problems or mental health issues. Others have been driven to the brink by bullying, their parents' divorce, the death of someone close or exam stress.
"Children can hide their distress so effectively that parents may have no idea their child is suicidal. We want parents to be given guidance on how to spot possible signs, how to listen to their child's worries and where to find help.
"We strongly urge any child who feels suicidal to call ChildLine. Or they could speak to a trusted adult such as their teacher or doctor.
"Every child deserves a happy childhood and the chance to grow and experience a full life. It is vital that children get the support they need.
The NSPCC also wants teachers and doctors to be trained to identify suicide distress signs before children reach crisis point.
Therapy should also be available for all children who have suffered abuse. One in five of those who called ChildLine about suicide said they had been sexually abused and nearly one in three said they had been physically abused.
Ten year old Sophie3 told a ChildLine counsellor: "I hate my life now dad's gone because I get blamed for everything and mum is in the pub every day. We never have any money because of her drinking and I've got no friends now. I just want to die."
Another caller, thirteen year old Paul(3) said: "I feel like killing myself. My mum and dad beat me and I'm getting bullied at school. I don't have anyone else to turn to except ChildLine. No one else would be able to help me. I'm scared of telling anyone."
Four out of five calls to ChildLine about suicide were from girls and only one fifth were from boys. But calls from boys are rising faster and are now four times higher than five years ago.
Since ChildLine joined with the NSPCC in 2006, the helpline has been expanded and answers more calls from children and young people than ever before. Even so, ChildLine is still unable to answer one in three calls.
In response, the NSPCC is urgently calling on the public to donate to its Child's Voice Appeal.(4) The charity needs to raise an extra £50 million over the next three years, in addition to £30 million already pledged by the UK Government, so that ChildLine can try to answer every call for help.
Sue Minto says: "Children need ChildLine more than ever. We desperately need public support to help save young lives and be there for more children."
Advice for parents
What to do if you are worried a child or young person feels suicidal
- Acknowledge their feelings. Think about all the pressures that young people face these days from their friends, from school, from changing body shapes.
- Be patient with them. If they respond angrily or refuse to talk to you, try and be patient with them. If they are having trouble talking to you or they get frustrated, encourage them to write down their feelings.
- Listen to them. Listening is the single most important thing you can do in these kinds of situations. Treat what they say with respect and try not to judge them.
- Reassure them. Tell them that they are not alone. It is common to feel upset or depressed for periods of time, but there are things they can do to make themselves feel better. Encourage them to do things that make them happy, to relax with a favourite DVD or CD, to exercise regularly to relieve stress and tension, and to get plenty of rest too.
- Help them. Suicidal thoughts are often the result of a combination of other problems. These can include excessive drinking and taking drugs and also self-harm.
- Tell them to call ChildLine. If they won't or can't open up to you, encourage them to call ChildLine on 0800 1111. Everything they say to a ChildLine counsellor will be confidential and ChildLine is there to listen to their problems.
- Do not try and cope alone. You can get help and advice from your child's school nurse or doctor. There are also a number of helplines that can help you.
Resources for parents and carers
0808 800 2222 - 24 hours helpline
0808 800 2222 - Monday, Wednesday, Friday 09.00 - 17.00. Tuesday and Thursday 09.00 - 21.00
YoungMinds Parents Helpline
0800 018 2138 - Monday - Friday 10.00 - 16.00. Wednesday 18.00 - 20.00
Parents Advice Centre (PAC) Northern Ireland
0808 801 0722 - Monday - Thursday 09.00 - 20.00. Friday - 09.00 - 17.00
- Ends -
Media Office on 0207 825 2835 out of hours mobile 0797 620 6625
Notes to editors:
(1) In 2007/2008, a total of 2925 children and young people rang ChildLine specifically about feeling suicidal (2,282 girls and 643 boys).This has risen from 910 calls in 2003/4. The full report 'Children talking to ChildLine about suicide' will be available to download from www.nspcc.org.uk/inform from 23 March 2009
(2) Seventy-two per cent of callers gave their age.
(3) Identifying details have been changed to protect the caller's identity.
(4) For further information or to donate to The Child's Voice Appeal visit www.childsvoiceappeal.org.uk
ChildLine on 0800 1111 is the UK's free, 24-hour helpline for children in danger or distress. Trained volunteer counsellors comfort, advice and protect children and young people. ChildLine is a service within the NSPCC. In Scotland it is delivered by CHILDREN 1ST on behalf of the NSPCC. Calls to ChildLine on 0800 1111 are confidential, but if a child is in immediate danger the counsellor will let the caller know if they have to break confidentially and contact the emergency services to save the child's life.
About the NSPCC:
The NSPCC is the UK's leading children charity specialising in child protection and the prevention of cruelty to children. The NSPCC's purpose is to end cruelty to children FULL STOP. Its vision is of a society where all children are loved, valued and able to fulfil their potential. The NSPCC runs 180 projects and services across the United Kingdom and Channel Islands, including ChildLine, the UK's free, confidential 24-hour helpline for children and young people. The NSPCC helps over 10,000 children and their families every year.